Flower power! Four-day festival will celebrate York’s growing fame

Picture perfect – Stonegate in York. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
31 Oct 2017 @ 7.13 pm
| Entertainment

‘It will be for adults, for children, for hipsters, academics, foodies, style seekers and history buffs.’

So says Lotte Inch, the curator of York’s newest festival – Bloom!

Bloom! Festival

Across York

July 5-8 2018

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Launched on Tuesday (October 31), and set to run for four days next July, Bloom! celebrates the 250th anniversary of the Ancient Society of York Florists, the oldest florists’ society still in existence in the world.

It will showcase everything about flowers, plants, fruit and veg. Expect York to be a riot of colour and fun.

The city’s parks and allotments will be taking part, along with gardeners, historians, pubs and restaurants – while the society’s annual show will come to Parliament Street for the first time.

Tea, films and flowers

Flowers in the Museum Gardens. Photograph: Museum Gardens website

York Museum Gardens and West Bank Park are among those to have already signed up to the festival.

So too have hotels including Hotel Du Vin, the Principal York and Middlethorpe Hall Hotel and Spa.

Numerous allotments societies and gardening groups such as Edible York will also be hosting activities. Workshops, talks and demonstrations from industry professionals will take place in marquees during the event.

Other planned activities include story-telling sessions, afternoon tea with a floral twist, garden-themed film screenings and children’s gardening workshops.

The festival will also see several projects remaining in situ far beyond the four days.

Curator Lotte Inch, who runs the Lotte Inch Gallery on Bootham, said:

Bloom! will be a city-wide festival for absolutely everyone.

It will be for adults, for children, for hipsters, academics, foodies, style seekers and history buffs.

For those who love gardening or those who can’t keep a cactus alive as well as for those who wish that they could!

Riot of colour

That’s nice petal… Photograph © webandi on Pixabay

“York will become a riot of colour with a series of large-scale, show-stopping installations, smaller floral displays, window dressing competitions, beer garden make-overs and hidden garden open days,” said Steve Brown, managing director of Make It York.

They have partnered with the York BID on Bloom! – the BID having provided funding for a festival curator.

Director of the York BID Andrew Lowson said:

Bloom! is exciting and it is right and proper we celebrate York as having the oldest horticultural society in the world.

We’re committed to helping to enhance floral displays and we plan on using Bloom! to kickstart an initiative that will leave a legacy in the city.


The festival will showcase the rich heritage of horticulture in York says John Galvin, secretary of the Ancient Society of York Florists.

The society’s July show will be held for the first time in Parliament Street, featuring plants and flowers grown by Yorkshire enthusiasts.

“This will be a brilliant opportunity to tell people about our history, which no other society in the world can match,” said John

Take part

Dig in for some blooming summer fun
The festival is looking for creative people to get involved, whether they have green-fingers or not.

Anyone who’d like to take part can email Bloom! curator Lotte Inch here

“As an experienced curator and events organiser Lotte, will be engaging with residents and businesses in and around York,” Steve Brown said.

“There’s such a wealth of skills, creative minds, specialist knowledge, gardening teams and horticultural businesses here and we want to involve as many as possible. It will be a festival our city can be proud of.”

Other organisations already supporting the festival include:

  • Askham Bryan College
  • Castle Howard
  • English Heritage
  • York Minster
  • York’s hotels, restaurants and bars
  • Shambles Market
  • York Museums Trust
  • York Civic Trust
  • universities and colleges
  • Bootham and Gillygate Traders Association
  • Indie York
  • the Harrogate Flower Festival
  • the North of England Horticultural
    Society
  • York City Centre Churches
  • the Great Yorkshire Fringe
  • the York Mediale.

You can vote for the festival to receive funds from the Aviva Community Fundraising fund by going to the website.

History of the Society of Florists

The sign above Barnitts’ doorway

More than 200 people signed the founding rules of the Ancient Society of York Florists in 1768, including such notable York citizens as the Quaker philanthropist William Tuke, Charles Yarburgh of Heslington Hall, and John and George Telford who ran the celebrated nursery on Tanners Row.

The first annual show and florists’ feast was held on 20 April 1768 at the Sand Hill Inn on Colliergate (where Barnitts is today).

These annual shows continued to be held at the Sand Hill Inn until 1777. From this date, until 1856, meetings and shows were held at Mr Baynes’ Coffee House on Petergate (now Bella Italia) and at other hotels within the city.

In the 19th century the location of its annual shows changed from the Guildhall, the Museum Gardens and to the De Grey Rooms.

A display at the Ancient Society of York Florists annual show at Wiggington rec. Photograph: the Society’s Facebook page

After 1983, the principal venue for the Society’s activities became Kingsway Junior School and later, Askham Bryan College.

Today the Ancient Society of York Florists hosts four shows annually in Wiggington recreational hall.

The word ‘florists’ in its title refers to a time when only florists’ flowers were accepted as exhibits – a florist being a person who grew flowers for their beauty, rather than the modern meaning of a seller of cut flowers.